Written by Richard Kern
January 2022

In the early 1900s, the area around what is now known as Marina del Rey was primarily salt marsh and wetlands where Ballona Creek emptied into the Pacific Ocean. A favorite destination for duck hunters and bird watchers, the estuary had been eyed as the ideal location for a commercial port serving nearby Los Angeles.

marina del rey - destination - marinalife
Marina del Rey Boats | Needpix.com

Several projects tried and failed to bring that dream to fruition, but in 1965 a marina was formally christened on the site after an expenditure of some $36.25 million. The commercial Port of Los Angeles was ultimately built in San Pedro, about 25 miles south. Marina del Rey sprang up around the new marina; the first wave included hotels, apartment complexes, 1,000 boat slips, and shopping centers, offices and restaurants.

Since then, Marina del Rey has become a premier neighbor- hood in LA, the third in a string of picturesque waterfront communities that includes Santa Monica and Venice Beach. Today the marina is a destination for boaters seeking easy access to Los Angeles, and also for landlubbers who want to experience the laid-back nautical vibe of the waterfront and beaches.

marina del rey - destination - marinalife
Marina del Rey waterfront | Wikimedia Commons

Just opposite the harbor’s entrance is Fisherman’s Village, a replica of a New England seaport and fishing town with restaurants, shops and the Marina del Rey Historical Society’s exhibit space. Fisherman’s Village also sponsors live music at its weekly “Thursdays are the new Fridays” events at the plaza.

Around the harbor you find restaurants, grocery stores, coffee shops, a UPS Store, a hospital, the Villa Marina Marketplace mall, upscale hotels and the Lloyd Taber-Marina del Rey Library, which houses a nautical collection for boaters. At the harbor’s north end, the Ritz-Carlton Marina del Rey offers visitors sophisticated lodging in a serene waterfront setting with high-end amenities such as the Sisley Spa, the farm-to-table Cast & Plow restaurant, poolside dining and cabanas, and Club Level accommodations.

Marina del Rey is also situated along the 22-mile Marvin Braude Coastal Bike Trail. Rent bikes at Daniel’s in Fisherman’s Village and cycle up to Will Rogers State Beach in Santa Monica (about six miles) or down the coast to Redondo Beach and South Bay (about 13 miles).

Other activities include hiking, hang gliding, parasailing, pier and jetty fishing, bird watching in the Ballona Wetlands and the Farmer’s Market, held every Saturday. And you’re just minutes from downtown LA, with its endless array of restaurants, museums, world-class events, tours, shopping — you name it!

Where to Dock

Marina del Rey Marina
This marina is conveniently located minutes from the airport and central to everything. Slips accommodate vessels from 30 to 150 feet. Amenities include a dockside shuttle service, laundry delivery service and discounts at nearby restaurants.

Pier 44 Marina
As one of the up and coming marinas in the area, Pier 44 Marina is the perfect spot for a long, relaxing vacation. They offer monthly and annual wet slips for vessels from 20 to 75 feet. Amenities include pumpout station and a Sea Mark Marine located on-site offering services such as carpet cleaning, boat wash, bottom paint, engine maintenance and repair.

Del Rey Landing
Transient dockage is available for vessels up to 328 feet and 15-foot draft. Amenities include high-speed fueling center, convenience store, concierge services, hard-wired Internet and a full-service boatyard.

Where to Dine

Cast & Plow
The chefs at this waterfront restaurant in the Ritz-Carlton transform locally sourced produce, seafood and meat into California cuisine at its finest. Unwind with a pre-dinner cocktail or glass of wine. Indoor and outdoor marina-view seating available.

Marina del Rey - destination - marinalife
Marina del Rey kayakers | Kindel Media on Pexels

Killer Shrimp
The restaurant’s eponymous Killer Shrimp is a generous helping of shrimp served in a spicy broth crafted from a secret family recipe — truly a must-taste. The Killer Cafe next door serves breakfast 24/7, and several dishes incorporate the signature shrimp spice from the mothership next door.

This local sushi chain serves high-quality, Tokyo-style sushi. Following Japanese tradition, the master chef decides each day’s fixed menu based on his knowledge of what’s most flavorful. Located at the Waterside Center.

Located in the Boardwalk Shops, this rustic spot serves traditional Italian dishes featuring handmade pasta from UOVO’s kitchen in Bologna, Italy. You read that right. This restaurant makes pasta in Italy using ingredients that only exist there and overnights it in a temperature-controlled cabin where the flight offers the essential “resting” time.